Preparing For Pandemic Securitizing Rhetoric in U.S. National Influenza Response Plans, 1978-2017

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Lisa Keränen
Branden Ingersoll
Aishwarya Krishnamoorthy
Meghan Cosgrove


Scholars from a wide range of disciplines, including communication and rhetoric, have argued that infectious disease has been increasingly securitized in the post-9/11 environment. This essay tracks the rhetoric of seven U.S. pandemic plans from 1978 to 2017 to investigate how the evolving language of these plans supports or undermines the infectious disease securitization thesis. Our analysis reveals stark differences in the arrangement, delivery, and style of U.S. pandemic plans, despite a consistent focus on antigenic shifts of influenza A, vaccines, and medical research and development. Although U.S. pandemic plans reflect connections to security since their earliest inception, they have adopted more explicit linkages to national and global health security since 2005. This move reflects the emergence of the global health security paradigm and raises questions about pandemic planning implementation.

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